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Is Novak Djokovic the Greatest of All Time?

We are going to take a look at whether Djokovic can be named as the best tennis player of all time after his win at the Australian Open 2023

Novak Djokovic, Dubai 2023 Djokovic has proved time and time again just how good he is © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

When Novak Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne at the end of January to claim the Australian Open, many tennis fans and the best tennis sites agreed that there really was no way of getting around it – he is simply the greatest of all time.

The Serbian is number one in the current world rankings and has a long list of honours that prove that he is the most dominant male player in the sport’s history. But is it just recentism that automatically means that he is considered the best ever?

We are going to take a look at whether Djokovic can be named as the best tennis player of all time, whether there are any serious challengers to his crown, and who might be the next player to step up and take over his place at the top.

Novak Djokovic trophy
Novak Djokovic, Australian Open 2023 – © AI/Reuters/Panoramic

The stats

If it comes down to just numbers, then Novak Djokovic just needs to win one more major to completely blow everyone out of the water. His triumph at the Australian Open at the start of the year was his 22nd major title – equalling the record set by Rafael Nadal when he won the same competition a year earlier.

He has also spent a record amount of time at the top of the ATP rankings, and has won far more Masters tournaments than Nadal or anyone else. It is not as if he is slowing down either. He has won 10 Grand Slam titles since turning 30 – more than any other player ever.

Even if we are biased towards players that we have been watching more recently, Djokovic still comes out on top. He has a better head-to-head record against both Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer. It is only his time away from some of the tournaments in the last few years that has seen him fail to forge further ahead than anyone who ever stepped on a court.

Who else?

We are truly living in a golden era of men’s tennis. If we are looking for a challenger to the GOAT title, then it is two (just about) current players that would be the closest challengers to Djokovic. Nadal obviously jointly holds the record for most Grand Slam victories and has been able to come back from injuries to reclaim his place at number one.

Roger Federer has announced his retirement from the major tennis tournaments but can also be considered one of the sport’s greats. He was the first player to reach 20 majors victories and won five Wimbledon Championships in a row in the 2000s. That included coming up against Nadal on more than one occasion. If he could have played better on clay he would undoubtedly have won even more titles.

Going back a little further, Rod Laver could have a claim to be the best ever. The Australian straddled the amateur and Open eras and triumphed in both. He is the only player, male or female, to have won all four Grand Slam titles in a single year twice – in 1962 and 1969 – and would have undoubtedly won more than 11 majors if he was not banned from competing for five years after turning professional.

Who takes over?

Although Novak Djokovic is still winning titles and looking unbeatable, he is now 35 years old. With Federer already retired and Nadal nearing the end of his career as well, there will soon be a changing of the guard at the top of men’s tennis.

Players like Lorenzo Musetti and Jannik Sinner have promised much in the last few years but have been hampered by the likes of the current big three still competing at the very top. One young player that has been able to shine through, however, is Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz.

Alcaraz has, somewhat lazily, been compared to Rafa Nadal and only turns 20 this year. He has already won one major – the US Open in 2022 – and is sure to win more in his career. Whether he can reach the heights of the current number one is another question altogether though. It is entirely possible that we will never see the like of Novak Djokovic ever again.

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